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Bashed Rick R. Reed
By Rick R. Reed
Three haters. Two lovers. And a collision course with tragedy.
When Donald and Mark left the Brig that October night, they had no idea their lives and love were about to be shattered by fag bashers, intent on pain, and armed with ridicule, fists, and an aluminum baseball bat.
The cowardly hate crime leaves one half of a couple alone and haunted—literally and figuratively—by the memories and denied promise of new love.
Bashed charts the course of a journey from grief to hope, from death to life, and from hate to redemption. Come along on a trip that encompasses suspense, horror, and—ultimately—romance.
My first thought after finishing this book was, 'Well that was really good, but how the heck am I going to review it?!'. Bashed is one of those books so full of churning emotion, that it almost defies description. It deals with a range of topics such as hate, anger, violence, frustration, confusion, contrition, guilt, despair, grief, intolerance, bigotry, revenge and several different types of love. The plot seems on one hand very simple, yet packs such an emotional punch that at times I could hardly bear to read it.
The book begins, horrifically, with a graphic description of a gay bashing that made me almost sick to my stomach to read and yet it was also terribly compelling. One of the victims, Donald, wakes up two days later to find that his world has fallen apart with the death of his lover, Mark. Whilst recovering from his injuries he is visited by the ghost of Mark, which is both a comfort and a torment for Donald. These visitations continue on and off as Donald struggles to come to terms with what has happened, tries to remember the identity of his attackers and attempts to rebuild his life. One of the group of men who attacked Donald is Justin, a sixteen year old boy. He is horrified that something which was supposed to be a bit of intimidation and name calling turned into murder and feels guilty even though he was not the one wielding the baseball bat. In an amazing piece of irony, the only person who cares about Justin is Walter, his gay uncle, who has recently moved into Donald's building. When Justin realises that his uncle and Donald are getting close he panics and starts a chain of events which leads to a nail biting finale.
Bashed is taken mostly from the viewpoint of either Donald or Justin. Donald is a fifty year old gay man who worked the gay leather scene for 30 years before meeting Mark and falling in love, 18 months prior to the story. I found myself feeling a mixture of pity and sorrow for Donald, who had finally found love and lost it in such a violent, unnecessary fashion. Before the attack he was a strong and independent man, who had taken the dominant role in the relationship with him and Mark. After the attack he becomes bewildered and frightened easily. He also doubts his own sanity when he is visited by Mark and yet looks forward to those times when he appears. Then, occasionally, we see flashes of the man he used to be, in his dealings with his sister and when he tries to forget his pain in casual sex.
The character of Justin brought out even more mixed feelings in me. For a start he is young, but still old enough to know right from wrong. He has a neglectful mother, but is loved unconditionally by his uncle. He knows that he hangs around with a bad crowd, drinking and smoking weed, but he does nothing to get himself out of that situation even after the attack. Justin is an example of how a weak attitude plus enough bravado and anger can lead to tragedy. Time and time again he thinks about doing the right thing and yet takes the wrong path at each opportunity.
We do occasionally get the point of view of other characters, especially Grace, Donald's sister; Walter; and for one enlightening chapter, Ronny, the young man who killed Mark. Each of these characters then provides us with insights into other characters - such as Grace's view of her brother, or the gay lifestyle - such as with Walter, or some explanation as to why people may behave as they do - as with Ronnie. There was never a point that I felt a scene or a character was wasted or not needed, even the scene at Mark's wake was included to show that even the most outwardly reasonable person can carry a homophobic attitude.
So out of the simplest of plots - an attack, a death, a grieving, a justice, a new beginning - comes a whole breadth of complex characters and motivations, showing that what might on the surface seem a pointless act has its roots firmly in cause and effect. It was enlightening and chilling.
This was not an easy book to read. I felt emotionally drained by the end as though I had been wrung out. This is a realistic portrayal of a gay bashing and its aftermath. There are no easy answers or excuses at the end of this book, which is as it should be. There may be a little explanation, a few hints as to why these attacks happen but this is real life and there's no fairytale ending because this still happens today, even in our so-called enlightened times. The book does end hopefully with the promise of new beginnings despite the sorrow but Bashed will not be to everyone's taste. The violence at the beginning was graphic so may be offputting to those who don't like violent stories; the themes, as you would expect, are rather depressing; and many of characters are unsympathetic, even on occasion Donald. However, this is a compulsive read and I think it's also a book that needs to be read by all those who sympathise with gay rights. For that reason alone I can wholeheartedly recommend Bashed with a grade of 'Very Good'.
When you pick up a copy of Rick R. Reed’s Bashed, don’t expect it to be an easy throwaway read. This is a novel about love, violence, fear, and hope that will capture your attention with the very first page and hold it hostage until you close the book at the end. It tosses its reader into the middle of a nightmare as all the fears that one man holds come true and he and his lover are attacked for daring to be a different from what society might call a norm. It takes a peek into the ugly mind of someone who would take their pleasure in causing harm and pain, and it pulls the reader along for a painful ride in the aftermath of violence.
If you are familiar with Mr. Reed’s work, you know that horror is his forte, and in Bashed he has almost outdone himself. This is not a tale à la Freddy Kreuger or Dawn of the Dead. The horror here is in just how real it all is, knowing that these acts of violence really do happen to innocent people and that they are not as rare as we might want to believe.
This story will fully engage both your heart and your mind. It will make you think about the nature of love and how it shows itself in our lives as well as what hate actually means. In general, we hate what we fear, and we fear what we don’t understand or agree with, and this is illustrated clearly here.
Mr. Reed has written this story from multiple points of view, which gives his readers not only a well-rounded view of the storyline but also insight into the actions and motivations of various characters. We experience Donald’s terror and pain during the attack and his hopelessness as he deals with the gigantic rift that losing Mark has placed on his soul. We watch Justin deal with the angst of being sixteen and the peer pressure that causes him to go along with his friends’ decision to bash a few gay guys even though in his heart he knows that what he is doing is immoral. And most frightening of all, we share in the poisonous thoughts of Ronny, the main perpetrator, as he prepares to take his crime one step further.
Yet with all the horror and suspense, there is an underlying thread of hope that runs through Bashed. There is hope that Donald will be able to rebuild some semblance of his life after losing his lover, hope that he may find love once again, and hope that Justin might find the strength to do the right thing.
As I read this novel, I found myself at times tense with suspense, at times wiping a few tears, and always feeling a sense of shame that such hate and intolerance exists in the world. For its depth of emotion, realistic horror, and atmosphere that lingers long after the story is complete, I’m storing Bashed on my keeper shelf. This isn’t a story that you finish and forget. It’s one that you’ll remember for a good long time.
Walking home from a leather bar through a relatively safe part of Chicago, two men are brutally attacked and beaten by three punks. One of the victims, Donald, is hospitalized. His lover, Mark, is dead at the scene.
So begins this gripping and chilling story of one man's struggle to survive the death of his partner after they were gay-bashed.
The author, Rick Reed, lets us see the aftermath through the eyes of not only Donald himself, but his sister Grace, trying to bring him comfort and solace, Walter, a neighbor wanting to be more than neighborly, and Justin, Walter's sixteen year old nephew who was one of the three responsible for Mark's death.
With great skill Reed gets inside the heads of these people bringing their darkest thoughts and fears to the surface, and forcing us to share Justin's weakness and paranoia. Reed might have been trying to portray Justin in a sympathetic light, but I ended up hating him more than Ronny, the one who wielded the baseball bat that ended Mark's life. Justin's sniveling guilt racked persona mixed with his obsession for the older Ronny's moronic behavior makes for a very unlovable teenager.
Reed doesn't hold back on the kind of anonymous sex Donald prefers when he is finally able to start putting his life together, but his hook up with Walter gives him more than he thought possible. The paranormal theme Reed introduces with Mark, Donald's dead lover, is interesting and pivotal to the story, but to dwell on it here would give too much away. Suffice to say that the climax of the story had me on the edge of my seat ~ a real white-knuckle ride!
I read somewhere that Rick Reed has been dubbed the Stephen King of gay horror ~ not a bad comparison ~ but unlike King who can sometimes go into endless and often pointless detail, Reed's writing is stylishly simple, yet at the same time gritty and realistic.